Tuesday Grid Update, 8/28

On a day when Arkansas finds out it will be without star Marcus Monk more than it expected, Arkansas coaches praise the efforts of wideout London Crawford, welcome back injured cornerback Jerell Norton back to practice, elevates Nathan Emert to second-team quarterback and promises to not scale back the offense.

There is no doubt that new University of Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee would have liked to have split end Marcus Monk and tight end Ben Cleveland available for this Saturday's season-opener with Troy.

But he made it clear Tuesday that the offense will not be scaled back just because those two players are currently injured and unable to play.

"I have no plans whatsoever to retract any of the passing game with Marcus out," Lee said. "Injuries are a part of football and you just have got to go play the next guy. It's what you do with it and how you look at it, that is going to determine whether we are worth a flip or not."

In fact, Lee said Monk's absence is simply an opportunity for someone else.

"We don't have Marcus Monk right now so that is an opportunity for greatness for somebody else somewhere else on the field," Lee said."

The Razorbacks learned they will have cornerback Jerell Norton in the lineup as he returned from injury and practice without any problems on Tuesday.

However, true freshman quarterback Nathan Dick continues to be bothered by a hip flexor – or possibly a sports hernia – likely will not play and signal caller Nathan Emert has been elevated to the second team.

While that and the weekend arrest of starting defensive end Marcus Harrison were obvious downers, UA head coach Houston Nutt said his team looks like they are getting ready.

"You can tell it's getting a lot closer," Nutt said. "We had really good concentration today.

"I thought for the most part on a really hot day they came out here and really concentrated for the full practice," Nutt added, "we executed well and we've just got to keep that going."

"We didn't have a ball on the ground, we didn't have any missed snap counts or jumping offside and I thought that was very positive," Nutt continued. "I didn't think we lined up wrong on defense as far as offsides. It's those little ole bitty things that hurt you. We got better at that part and had a good kicking day."

It's clear that both of the aforementioned coaches are expecting big things from sophomore split end London Crawford, who will start in Monk's place.

"I think London Crawford has really stepped up and caught the ball consistently for about six practices in a row," Lee said. "That's the only thing that was haunting him before was his lack of finishing the play and catching it. Now he is catching it, he looks good, he is running good routes.

"(Freshman) Crosby Tuck is right there and Crosby is going to play a lot in the game," Lee addedd. "We like him and feel good about him.

"Our flanker spot with Reggie Fish, Robert Johnson and Carlton Salters is kind of how we are lined up there now."

Lee is also high on starting tight end Andrew Davie and freshmen tight end D.J. Williams.

"I think D.J. Williams gives us some stuff and I have a lot of confidence in Andrew Davie," Lee said. "He runs some good routes for us, is a good naked route runner and I feel good about both of those guys."

Lee went over the differences in this year's offense - more of a play-action one - from last season's.

"Our run game is practically identical," Lee said. "We have got some misdirection we brought from Dallas off the isolation) and misdirection off the draw and I think it will have its place as we go through the course of the season.

"You won't see it Saturday night," Lee added. "Some of the stuff we have worked on all camp is not going to be in the game plan Saturday night.

"Passing wise, it is a lot different," Lee said. "The protections are different, the concepts are different – that is the biggest difference in our offensive football team. The Wildcat is essentially the same and with that we will put it together and hopefully we won't have too much where our players don't know what we are doing."

Lee believes the team has adapted well to the new offense.

"I think the players have taken to it like a duck to water myself," Lee said. "I feel good about it. We have never retracted and said we need to quit doing this or quit doing that.

"Our offensive staff has done a great job," Lee continued. "Mike Markuson has done a great job with these guys picking up the protections with three new starters up front."

Cleveland has had pain in his neck, what was first believed to be a pinched nerve. But two specialists have not been able to give him a concrete diagnosis.

"We are going to strengthen those neck muscles right now," Nutt said. "That's the thing. Our doctors couldn't figure it out because it is hard to pinpoint and you go to Houston and it's about the same thing.

"Now they are going to do some rehabbing in the neck area and try that with some muscle exercises and let's see what happens," Nutt said.

As for a return date, Nutt hedged his bets.

"I don't know," Nutt said. "We'll see once we get him back out on the field. Let's give him one more crack at it and let's see what happens."

Both Nutt and Lee think that starting quarterback Casey Dick has improved since the start of pre-season camp.

"He is making better decisions and doing a better job with the offense," Nutt said. "He is a year older naturally, got some games under his belt and he has improved. Coach Lee has done a good job with him. I think he has some confidence in what we are doing and I am excited to see him play Saturday.

"He has always had that, that interaction, and his teammates love him," Nutt said. "That has never been an issue and he has always been a good leader."

Lee has helped Dick shorten his stride while passing.

"I think Casey has made a lot of progress fundamentally," Lee said. "Only Saturday night is going to tell if he is going to lose those fundamentals or keep them. I think he has made progress fundamentally and progress in his accuracy."

In other news, starting safety Matt Hewitt missed practice with a virus but is expected back on Wednesday and Crawford and Ramon Broadway have been named the starting gunners on the punt team.

Fish and Michael Grant will back up that pair with Shedrick Johnson also in the mix.

Nutt admits his team has spent a lot of time on special teams, but he still worries like most coaches about it.

"Every day we hit kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return," Nutt said. "We have done good, but that's the thing that keeps you up a little bit because you have got to go do it live, got to go do it in a game.

"It is hard to have a lot of quality reps at all those things and hit every situation," Nutt said. "You try to hit as many possible game situations as possible. You don't know whether they are going to squib it, onside it, sky-kick it – all those different scenarios so you try to hit as many as you could."

He is not worried about freshmen field goal kicker Alex Tejada, who has booted it through the uprights from as far as 55 yards away in scrimmages.

"I have got a lot of confidence in Alex," Nutt said. "He is a gamer, he's very consistent, focused and has a strong leg."

Nutt is certainly paying Troy respect.

They are not in awe of stadiums," Nutt said. "They've gone to Florida State, gone to Nebraska, they played at Missouri. They have been around. They have played the big games. They won't worry or concern themselves with 72,000 people before. They have been in that arena before."

"I am not worried about them as much as I am about us and our mindset," Nutt said. "We will be ready to go."

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